Barbie Movie Review — Biting satire dressed as a hot pink fever dream

Dazzling in its charm, creativity, and sheer audacity, Greta Gerwig's Barbie is biting satire dressed as a hot pink fever dream.

It starts off innocently enough. In mythical Barbieland lives all the Barbies and Kens that were ever produced, spending all their time living in Dreamhouses and being the best versions of themselves (one's a Pulitzer Prize winner and another is the actual President). In the center of this toy story is Margot Robbie’s Stereotypical Barbie, whose pearly smile and irresistible charm is coveted by all the Kens, in particular the blonde himbo version played by Ryan Gosling.

All is well and good in pink and perfect Barbieland, but the movie shifts gears to meta humor as Barbie unexpectedly finds her perfect tiptoe feet planted firmly on the ground and her thoughts filled with existential dread. After consulting a Barbie who has experienced this before (in the form of Kate McKinnon's Weird Barbie, the Barbie who got played too much), she learns that she must travel to the real world to set things right.

Just like the doll it's based on, Barbie is everything all at once. It's a self-aware comedy that isn't afraid to poke fun at Barbie; it's a love letter to the doll's 64-year-old legacy, with fun Easter eggs and cheeky references to the toyline; it also has a lot to say about feminism, fragile masculinity, the patriarchy, and the pressures of women to simply exist in a world designed to box them in.

A movie this daring would have been dead in the water without a charismatic lead, and Margot Robbie steps up in a big way. She is incandescent eye candy in her all-pink ensemble as well as Barbie's emotional center, handling all these heavy themes just as easily as she flashes the trademark Barbie smile. When she's spitting hard truths while dressed to the nines, you just can't look away.

Surprisingly, it's Ryan Gosling's Ken that steals the spotlight halfway through the movie with an honest and affecting performance that clashes beautifully with his platinum blonde hair and spray-tanned abs. Ken's macho posturing is hilarious, and yet a vulnerable side comes through in some introspective moments (including a song and dance number titled "I'm Just Ken", his raison d'être set to 80s synth pop) that shine the spotlight on both positive and negative aspects of today's idea of masculinity. It would have been cringe-inducing if he wasn't so ridiculously fabulous!

I applaud Gerwig for tackling relevant issues like these in an entertaining way, but she doesn't always succeed. Barbie sputters to a crawl in the second half as Gerwig takes this time to lecture the viewer about the cognitive dissonance of womanhood without the sharp wit and clever humor that made the movie fun to watch. While I agree with everything Gerwig says here and that it should be listened to by every breathing male ever, the heavy-handed approach throws a wrench into the movie’s momentum. The world desperately needs to hear the message of Barbie, but I wish it didn't give you tonal whiplash to do it.

But even these hiccups don’t undermine the movie's strongest message: that you, whether you’re a Barbie or a Ken, are (K)enough. It’s not just a story about female empowerment, it's also the story of men and women realizing that there are so much we can teach each other beyond our own worldview. To say that about a movie starring a toy doll is amazing in itself.

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